Surveying Sour

Alessandro Romero, Writer

Olivia Rodrigo’s new album Sour released recently. And with that, a petty review shall ensue with elaboration as to why this album is important – I suppose.  

I say that with uncertainty as I honestly do not know who this person was until Monday. For context, the Dakota Planet staff kept talking about Rodrigo’s new song and the drama behind it. And with a brilliant thought, they believe my opinion of the work and drama would be interesting content. I agreed as I have nothing better to write about.   

 

Prologue  

Apparently, there’s a bit of drama behind the new album and Olivia’s other works. This drama is interesting for anyone who is a desperate teenage romantic – so many of us – as it involves heartbreak. According to Esquire, Rodrigo’s song Driver’s License, which will be in the album, was assumingly inspired by a real-life love triangle between Rodrigo and her fellow cast in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. It is believed that Rodrigo had a relationship with Joshua Basset; however, Basset moved onto Sabrina Carpenter. Thus, a series of songs from each of the parties involved have been released around this issue of young love. 

However, I am not here to talk about romance. I am here to criticize music, but art is best understood through the lens of the artist. The lens just happens to be a high-school-level relationship for celebrities in a cast for a musical about high school, which also has a terribly long title. I mean not to discredit the work, though, as the acclaimed Romeo and Juliet play by Shakespeare is teenage romance gone into turmoil.  Therefore, not all work about a romance that never worked doesn’t mean that the art that spawns for it doesn’t work.  

 

Hopefully, What’s Sour isn’t the Quality 

Since Driver’s License is the song that defined the conflict, it should be the first for a review.  The primary thing that I enjoyed about the song was the lyrics. Typically, songs about heartbreak usually have the actual music carrying it, but I believe the lyrics were well thought out as they were personal enough to have a real poignancy to it. I did quite like some of the effects that they use along with piano in the instrumental. Unfortunately, I do not like how the vocals were utilized in the song because it just felt too off-putting. It feels like the vocals are getting to a climax at some points, but the delivery of it isn’t satisfying enough. Simply, it is a good song; but it is not my personal cup of tea, which already taste terrible on its own.  

Déjà vu is next on the list. Again, I praise the lyrics in the song as it does have a more interesting theme and message than other contemporary songs, which is enforced by the music video. The instrumentals of the song also have a nice and unique sound that I also quite enjoyed. Similarly, I was not engaged by the vocals too much. It is the same problem: the vocals – I feel – do not have enough emotional emphasis to deliver the proper climax. Though, the vocals are not bad in the slightest; I just disagree on the utilization of it. Overall, a good song as well. 

Moving on, Good 4 You is the next track on the list. This song has a lot more distinguishing factors to it than the previous songs. For one, there is more intense, fast-paced rock. The lyrics also match the more fast-paced character with a bit more passive aggressive flair. Unlike the previous songs, it feels like Rodrigo is mad at the person that dumped her, which is a far cry from her being a melancholic Juliet. The vocals do have the emphasis I was looking for in the prior songs. The song also does have a great zeal to it from just absolutely lambasting this guy. In conclusion, a very good song.  

Next up, Brutal is making an impactful entrance. The song was a bit simpler than the previous songs, but it wasn’t lackluster by any means. The sound has two unique parts: a repetitive, angry guitar and a melancholy sound that sounds like a string instrument. The most impactful part of the song was just how angsty it was. True, I expected some angst, but Rodrigo goes into it. The only thing brutal about the song is Rodrigo’s opinion on herself in the lyrics. Overall, it seems more valuable as a form of expression for Rodrigo than it is to be a bit.  

The next teenage soliloquy is Traitor. There’s nothing particularly special about the song other than it seems to be criticism for the one that broke, or just the narrator’s, heart. The lyrics deal with how an ex-lover has metaphorically backstabbed her. The sound of it was fine, though, as it was just a slow melody. Thus, it seems to be more of gesture of ill-will than a song for entertainment.  

Moving Forward, 1 Step Forward 3 Steps Back is the next song. It was not an absolute breath-taker, but it was enjoyable. The melody is almost like a depressing waltz, which would go with the overall message of the song quite well. That message being Rodrigo trying to civilly call someone, but that call goes terribly wrong. It is a nice, simple but sad addition to the album.  

Enough for You is next song in line for the album. Again, this is a simple song that feels more like a lamentation rather than a product designed to make the average consumer dance or feel enthralled. It provides emotion and has a nice sound to it, but it feels more like a song to serve Rodrigo – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

The next addition to this joyful album is Happier. Unfortunately, the lyrics fall into the same pit of unhappiness that is throughout the album, especially about this seemingly fickle lover. The actual music of the song did have some elements to it. The sound added variety to it like piano and emotional synths. However, it is again a sorrowful piece of art meant to help the artist cope.  

Moving forward, Jealousy, Jealousy is the next track. It does change in theme as it is more about an all familiar envy that people may have social media influencers. The song was a nice change of pace from the heartbroken songs beforehand. The sound was quite alright, but it was nothing that completely made me excited or enthralled. Overall, Jealousy, Jealousy was a fine song. 

Then, Favorite Crime follows up in the album. The song again touches on the encompassing theme of the narrator’s ex-lover using her and breaking her heart. These lyrics of regret are then joined by an acoustic guitar with no flair. Thus, the song was a little bland as it was too similar with everything else in the album and used basic elements with a sad guitar. 

Finally, Hope Ur Ok concludes the album. This is probably the most unique track the album in terms of themes. Although at first, the title may be another song that is a sarcastic attack on the lambasted ex-lover, but it was actually a heartfelt message towards people the narrator thought were suffering in her life. The sound also had some interesting elements to it that I cannot describe. Therefore, this was a nice and calm way to end an album full of contempt and heartbreak.  

 

The General Overview 

In the end, Sour is an interesting album but not an absolute masterpiece by any means. It is filled with interesting sounds that captured my attention. The lyrics of most of the songs were quite well made as they felt genuine as to what they were describing: the heavy emotions of a modern teenager. However, I did feel that the themes were quite repetitive in each song, yet there was some nuance in each song that distinguished each song to an extent. The album felt more like a necessary lament rather than something primarily to catch the audience, but it is good to cope. I hope that Sour allows Rodrigo to cope at the heartbreak she may have experienced in her love triangle.